The City of Portland doesn’t appear to be in a hurry to get a deal with its 1,600 workers who are represented by the seven-union District Council of Trade Unions (DCTU).
Two weeks after DCTU members rejected a tentative contract agreement Feb. 10, the City submitted a “last, best, and final offer” that contains even less favorable terms. DCTU unions are now determining, one by one, whether to accept those terms or authorize a strike. Each DCTU union has its own process for deciding.
Under Oregon’s Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act, the City workers may legally strike as soon as March 28 — at the expiration of a 30-day cooling-off period. Alternately, the City could “implement” its offer. (That’s labor relations parlance for when an employer imposes its terms on workers without their agreement.)
Oregon AFSCME Council 75 Executive Director Ken Allen said if the City implements, it would be like nuclear war.
“[With this worsened proposal], they hope to punish,” said DCTU chief negotiator Rob Wheaton, a union rep for AFSCME Local 189, the largest of the DCTU unions. “It underscores the City’s paternalistic attitude toward labor relations: ‘You guys have not behaved. We’re going to punish you.’ They don’t see labor unions as equal partners.”
Wheaton said he doesn’t believe the City will implement, considering that it’s facing political attack by a group of big water users. A ballot initiative on the May primary ballot would take water and sewer operations out of City control and hand it over to a newly created public utility district. The proposed district would be led by an elected board, but the intiative contains many restrictions on who could serve. AFSCME has so far contributed $20,000 to the campaign, making it the largest funder of the “no” campaign so far.
“It’s going to be very difficult for them to do such an egregious act as implementing an agreement on us, while continuing to ask for political support,” Wheaton said.